Dragon’s Lair: not the game I remember

There can be something magical about revisiting a video game from your childhood. Pick the right title and you can be instantly transported back to being a kid, when the weekends seemed to go on for ages and you had so much free time for the controller.

The most recent example of this for me was The 7th Guest. Although it’s now easy to see how bad the full-motion video (FMV) is and cringe at the cliched scary moments, it brought back everything I remembered about gaming in the 1990s. The title before this was Shivers and it was a different nostalgic experience. It reminded me of how much this released scared me in 1995 – so much in fact that I could feel my palms sweating, and I haven’t yet returned to it since.

On the flipside though, there are also occasions when you pick up an old game and fail to understand what made it so special for you when you were young. You eagerly sit there waiting for the installation to complete, hoping you’re going to witness that same magic all over again, but something is missing when you’re finally able to press the start button and you come away disappointed. This is just what happened to me when I decided to try Dragon’s Lair last month.

This was a game I have some memory of playing at my parent’s house when I was a kid, although it’s kind of vague and I’m not entirely sure when this was or the platform. I’m assuming it was my Amiga seeing as I spent so much of my free time on the thing but can’t confirm this. What I do recall however is never finishing because it was too difficult for me, and then deciding to purchase it in on Steam in July 2013 with a bunch of other old titles but never getting around to playing it again.

It captured my attention when I was young because it was like being in a cartoon thanks to its Western animation-style graphics. The other video games I was familiar with at the time were all pixelated, so it looked completely different to anything else I’d played before and I enjoyed stories about magic and evil wizards. When I realised that it was a potential choice for this year’s #MaybeInMarch event, I had a hard time deciding between Dragon’s Lair and Machinarium.

The latter eventually won, and I enjoyed the six-hours I spent with the point-and-click. It might not be the best adventure I’ve ever completed but there was something incredibly charming about the protagonist and robotic world he lived in. Even though my decision for #MaybeInMarch had already been made, I decided to install Dragon’s Lair too and give it a little go one evening; and after realising it was still as difficult as I remembered it to be, Pete and I thought it might make for a fun stream.

Dragon's Lair, video game, animation, knight, Dirk the Daring, Princess Daphne, kiss, cuddle, rescue

The storyline is pretty much what you’d expect from a 1983 arcade game: Dirk the Daring is a knight attempting to rescue Princess Daphne from the horrible dragon Singe, after he locks her in a castle belonging to the foul wizard Mordroc. It’s easy to figure out how little magic there is in this synopsis when reading it with adult eyes, but there was just something about it at the time that made me want to reach the conclusion of the game and find out whether the hero and his love-interest lived happily ever after.

The gameplay consists entirely of animated cutscenes and series of around 30 quick-time events (QTEs). In the original release, these were displayed at random and all had to be completed without failure in order to get to the end. In the Steam version however, we made things a little easier for ourselves: selecting the ‘home’ version to have the scenes played in order, along with additional lives and continues, meant we were able to finish Dragon’s Lair in just over an hour.

I was disappointed. None of the magic I felt as a child was there any longer and it was obvious how this had been a game designed to make young men give up as much money as possible in the arcade. As you can probably guess already, my biggest frustration was with Princess Daphne – although I can’t say whether it was her damsel-in-distress act or inappropriate clothing that annoyed me more. If she was that cold, she should really have been wearing a cardigan.

I came across an excellent quote while researching some background details for this post. In an article for Hardcore Gamer in August 2013, author Nikola Suprak wrote: “Years of playing video games has made me very familiar with the ‘save the princess’ motif, which makes me extremely suspicious about Daphne’s princess credentials. There is a far greater chance that she is just a stripper with the stage name Princess than an actual princess, because if actual princesses dressed like she did the royal weddings wouldn’t be so boring to watch.”

Perhaps the magic I’d felt as a child disappeared quickly because I’m a grown-up who is able to see the game for what it really is. Maybe it’s because too much has been changed from the original release to make the Steam version. Or perhaps Dragon’s Lair has now lost something that I’ve completed it and there’s no longer that wonder about what happens at the end. Whatever the reason is, there’s very little chance of me ever revisiting the series again in the future.

I’m glad I didn’t choose Dragon’s Lair for this year’s #MaybeInMarch event, but I’m also pleased that it’s another old game off my backlog. What’s next?

The 7th Guest: the horror of the 90s

I’m a coward when it comes to horror games. But that doesn’t mean I’ve not played them: although I’m never going to be brave enough to face an action-adventure or survival on my own, I’ve managed to force myself through a few scary point-and-clicks over the years.

One of these was Shivers by Sierra Online back when it was released in November 1995. Picking it up again last year reminded me of just how much it had frightened me then, and I felt that familiar fear sink its teeth in even though the cartoon spirits are laughable now. A lot of this feeling was to do with the soundtrack; many studies have documented the ability of songs to recall previous events and emotions, and hearing The Theatre and The Secret Hall returned me to being a scared teenager.

Before this though was The 7th Guest in January 1993. Like with Shivers, it seems strange now that it was a game I bought as its promise of a ‘long-abandoned mansion’ filed with ‘eerie lights and the terrible sing-song rhymes of children’ should have really put me off. I remember playing it on the PC in my parents’ conservatory during the evenings after school while they were in the lounge, the lights and sound of the television from the other room making me brave enough to continue.

After meeting Darkshoxx in October last year, I watched several of his streams where he attempted to speedrun Trilobyte Games’ release. We then had the pleasure of seeing him move on to sequel The 11th Hour as part of a charity marathon one Friday evening. Seeing these games being played again made me want to return to The 7th Guest myself so, after receiving the 25th Anniversary Edition as a Christmas gift from Ellen from Ace Asunder and then working through a section for our GameBlast21 marathon stream, I decided it was time for a proper playthrough.

This isn’t your typical horror. Instead of grabbing your gun to fight off the monsters or hiding from ghosts in cupboards, the action takes place in the form of 22 puzzles dotted around the mansion and solving these opens further rooms. They range in type and difficulty, and there are some spooky happenings as you progress: you may hear a random scream coming from upstairs, see hands trying to push through a painting on the wall or get sucked into a secret passage which transports you to a different area.

The room I remember most from my first playthrough was the kitchen for two reasons. First, the puzzle was one which had me stumped for a while: your objective is to rearrange tin-cans with letters on them to form a sentence, but you must make do with only Ys as no vowels are provided. I spent days working on anagrams in a notepad and it was through this that I learnt the word ‘tryst’. Luckily I recalled this memory and was able to solve the challenge the second time around with little difficulty.

The second reason is the soup incident. As mentioned above, strange things happen at certain points in the game and if you click on the stove in the kitchen, you’ll be treated to a full-motion video (FMV) clip where a liquid face comes out of a pot. I remember this one frightening me the most as a teenager. The 7th Guest’s story is told through similar FMV scenes, although their sequence is dependent upon the how you tackle the rooms and so they may not necessarily be shown in order.

This made me wonder how well the plot is communicated to today’s audience. Storytelling methods in video games have progressed far beyond what was available to players back when this title was released and so I can see how elements of The 7th Guest could be viewed as confusing and out-dated. Indeed, I asked the friends who had joined us in Twitch chat whether they understood what was going on – and most of them admitted to not knowing what was happening.

I carried on progressing through the rooms, hoping that the ending would make the narrative clearer for viewers. The bishop puzzle in one of the bedrooms upstairs almost stopped us though and trying to move two sets of chess pieces to the opposite side of the board was just as difficult as I remembered it to be. Thankfully, we had both Darkshoxx and Die4Ever2011 – the person who holds the world record for completing the game in the fastest possible time – to give us several hints which got us through it.

So did the final cutscene make the narrative any clearer for those in Twitch chat after over ten hours of gameplay? The answer on one hand is yes because they now understood the plot-twist; but the other it’s no, because there were several friends who asked: ‘Is that it?’. There are certainly a few holes and unanswered questions when I look at the story through older eyes now. But playing it as a teenager in 1993, I seemed to overlook all those problems and lose myself in the atmosphere of the mansion.

To be quite honest though, I’m not sure the title has aged entirely well. The FMV sections were technically ground-breaking at the time of release and I remember being amazed by them but now, they just look incredibly fuzzy; and the ghostly moments are more cliched and comical than terrifying. Whereas Shivers managed to still scare me thanks to its creepy soundtrack and mysterious museum setting, I couldn’t help but laugh at some of the effects and acting throughout The 7th Guest.

But this is what makes it what it is. It’s nostalgic and brings back what you remember of gaming in the 1990s. It wouldn’t be the same title without the bad FMV cutscenes, weird villain and cheesy lines and a remake just wouldn’t be able to capture what made it special. I can see why many players still look at this classic fondly, and it has been a pleasure getting to know several members of the speedrunning community who continue to hold it in high regard.

During our streams, Attagoat suggested we next move on to The 11th Hour. It’s something I’d like to do one day because I bought it when it was released but never finished it. First though, I think I’m going to immerse myself in the world of FMV a little deeper as The 7th Guest has reminded me why I love these games so much.

Taking note: keeping records during video games

Those of us who grew up through the 1990s remember the video game manual being as much a part of the experience as the game itself. It was often the first tie to any title we’d set our hearts on playing and magic could be found within their pages.

Those leaflets contained epic backstories, descriptions of the heroes and their enemies, detailed instructions and even welcomes from the developers themselves. Reading them was a way of immersing yourself in the digital world before you’d even sat in front of your computer. And rather than the plastic cases we’re all familiar with seeing for today’s physical releases, games came in large cardboard boxes which ended up being piled high next to your CRT monitor like a badge of honour.

Every manual was different in terms of content and appearance, but something they all had in common was the blank notes section at the back. I’d start off using these to record secret combinations uncovered during my playthrough but eventually they’d overflow onto notepads when it became necessary to draw maps or make connections between clues. While one side of the CRT was crammed full of video game boxes, on the other lived a stack of guides with folded pieces of paper sticking out of them.

I remember making lists of sword-fighting insults and their retorts for The Secret of Monkey Island. Sketched representations of strange contraptions made while trying to get them working again in Myst. Diagrams showing the locations of the sacred pots and their corresponding lids during Shivers as I avoided the Ixupi. There’s still a hand-drawn map of the forest with landmarks including the witch’s house and palaeontologist’s hole tucked away inside my old Simon the Sorcerer case.

That was a long time ago though. The idea of reading a manual before starting or taking notes while playing a release feels unfamiliar to many modern gamers. Printed instructions became obsolete as in-game tutorials became the norm and made the learning experience more interactive; and internet searches, walkthroughs and lets-play videos replaced the need for having to record codes in writing. Most games have become so fluid and user-friendly that there just aren’t as many challenges that require you to keep a pen handy.

I’m pleased to say they haven’t disappeared entirely though. The tier-4 lockdown restrictions imposed in London and the south-east of the UK just days before Christmas meant my other-half and I were able to hide ourselves away with new adventure titles last month, several of which had us reaching for our notepad again. At the time of drafting this post, we’re still trying to figure out a tricky puzzle involving portals in Quern: Undying Thoughts by Zadbox Entertainment, and pathway diagrams can be found in the latest pages of our jotter.

Some of the releases we’ve played recently have provided an in-game notepad and, even though I still prefer to take my own physical notes, this feature has come in handy during certain situations. It’s something we put to good use while streaming Interrogation Files: Port Landsend by Visual Interactive in November. Being similar in gameplay to Her Story, adding future search terms for the database to the on-screen notebook enabled friends in chat to join in with the investigation.

Sometimes a picture can be worth a thousand words though and a photograph can help you through a puzzle more quickly than a scribbled note will. For example, we found that taking a picture of the symbols shown during a certain case in Greyhat: A Digital Detective Adventure by Limited Games meant we could easily compare them with others in different locations. The gallery on my other-half’s phone is now full of random images of video games and we’re not even sure where half of them came from.

In newer releases such as Call of the Sea by Out of the Blue, not only is an in-game journal available but the ability to update this automatically exists too. If the protagonist sees something she feels might be useful – star constellations used to open doors, for instance – she’ll automatically make a sketch so the player doesn’t have to do it themselves. This makes for a rather chilled experience when you can sit back and enjoy the story, knowing that you won’t miss anything important.

I’m not sure this feature is ultimately for me though. Having now had the chance to play though several titles which required us to keep a notepad and pen close by through the holiday period, I realise I enjoy the additional challenge and immersion that comes from having to take your own notes. Looking back over those scribbles and photographs while the end-credits roll makes the victory that little bit sweeter, and they turn into a fond memory when you come across them again in the future.

But as mentioned above, doing this can seem strange to modern gamers. I can see how the thought of having to keep manual records may put some off even attempting a release because it feels old-fashioned. And for those no longer able to devote as many free hours to gaming due to adult responsibilities, challenges that need you to reach for a physical notepad may seem like a way to needlessly extend the length of a game and something they just don’t have the time for.

How do you feel about taking notes while playing video games? Do you go for physical paper and pen, make use of an in-game notebook, get your camera ready or use some other method?

We’re taking part in GameBlast21 to support SpecialEffect, the gamers’ charity.
Making a donation will bring you great loot, increase your XP by +100 and make you immune to fire.*
(*Not guaranteed.)

The best games to play at Christmas

There’s something about Christmas which gets everyone nostalgic. That’s usually the same feeling we want from video games this time of year: a sense of comfort and good memories to make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

And let’s face it, gaming with a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie or two is far more entertaining than watching the Queen’s speech (sorry, Your Majesty). In case you’re not sure what to play during this holiday season, I asked some of my blogger-friends to tell us all about the titles they find themselves picking up at Christmas. Whether you’re looking for something that reminds you of your childhood, a game to take you away from it all or a good story to get wrapped up in, we’ve got something here for you.

Lorraine from Geeky Galaxy

Stellaris, video game, space, stars, planetStellaris is the game for me during the holiday season for a few reasons. I get far more time to play since I take as much time as possible off work. That means I can get in a full game without blinking an eye and a full game in Stellaris is not a short thing. BUT, I can also create a galactic empire modelled on Father Christmas and his elves. A corporate empire, with a leader with a white beard and a subservient second species as elves? See, you can make any Christmassy if you try hard enough!”

Charles from Comfortably Adventurous

Civilization VI, video game“The holiday season traditionally involves a long drive to see my family and the limitations of my laptop to satisfy my gaming needs. With no great predication for discovering new niche titles, the mainstay of my gaming habits in recent years has been an old favourite, Civilization VI. It’s an easy game to get lost in, that allure of ‘one more turn’ just pulling at you until you realise everyone else has left the room and your are a millennia into the history of your culture. Few games have held my attention as strongly as this classic.”

DanamesX from Tales from the Backlog

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel, video game“The holidays have always been a great time to catch up on gaming. I have two weeks off from work, so this is the perfect time for me to finish up any long RPGs that I’ve started throughout the year. Last year, I wrapped up The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel, and this year I am working on finishing the third game in the saga. This is the perfect time to get it done since the game makes you explore and talk to everyone in every area that you visit. It is not required to get through the game, but if you want to complete it, you can’t leave any area unchecked. So for me, there is always a good chance that I am playing a long RPG to finish it up before more games enter the backlog.”

MagiWasTaken from Indicator

“The best game to play during the holidays? Well, obviously, it’s got to be Headbangers in Holiday Hell. It’s an action-roguelike that my laptop can run and since runs can be somewhat short (due to my lack of skills), I can get as festive as I want as often as I want and quit at any time if I need to spend some quality time with my family. After all, I don’t get to visit my family all too often, especially nowadays, so I don’t play too many games these days. Happy Holidays! Sincerely, Magi!”

Nathan from Gaming Omnivore

Animal Crossing: New Horizons, video game“When I think of video games I associate with a particular time of year, one of the very first that spring to mind is Animal Crossing. One of my favorite parts of Animal Crossing games has been the changing of seasons along with the different scenery and activities to go with it, especially once the autumn season begins and makes way into Halloween and before you know it, we’re already approaching Toy Day and New Year’s Eve in the winter. Some of my most vivid holiday memories have been spent strolling through my village (or island) and taking in the seasonal sites with the neighbors. I still remember the New Year’s Eves that were spent with the GameCube hooked up to the living room tv as we’d visit the other village denizens and gather in the town square to count down to the new year at midnight. Of course, you could make it whatever season you’d like by simply adjusting the clock on your console, but time travel was never really my thing (I’m not a Doctor).”

Ellen from Ace Asunder

World of Warcraft, video game, Christmas, tree, star, snow“I haven’t been able to say this for five years, but oh my gawd, I will definitely be playing World of Warcraft this holiday season. During my eight pre-20015 years in WoW, it was a Christmas day tradition to drag my characters to either Ironforge or Orgrimmar (I shamelessly play both sides) and collect gifts left under the Winter Veil tree by Greatfather Winter (yep! Blizzard’s version of Christmas). These gifts were limited time toys for your characters that could be used to interact with other players for extra fun. I’m so excited to resume my addiction tradition this year!”

Gaming Diaries

Monopoly, Fallout, board game“For games that are perfect for the holiday period I always come back to games you can play together. Quite often this combines with ones that reflect a more traditional board game or even a quiz show. For example, the various Monopoly or Risk style games, but also games like Knowledge is Power or Scene It. These give you so many fun moments as families and are great for the reluctant gamers in the family to get involved with easily and the tidy up at the end is far quicker. Anything that means coming together and having fun is perfect for this period and with a little extra time available to play and the opportunity for a lot of laughs these can be perfect.”

Athena from AmbiGaming

Journey, video game, mountain, stranger, dessert, sky, star, sand, clouds“December, and particularly Christmas, is a hard time of year for me, so I often find myself reaching for familiar games, like those in the Dragon Age or Mass Effect series, although I have a yearly tradition of playing Metal Gear Solid 2 on New Year’s Eve, as well. However, this year I might change it up and pull out Journey, a quiet, contemplative game that offers surprisingly close relationships with other (real) people on their own separate, but ultimately familiar, journeys, before gaining the understanding needed to become a light for someone else as they begin their own trek across the sands.”

William from WCRobinson

Pokémon, Platinum, video game, winter, snow“My pick is Pokémon Platinum. To start with, Diamond / Pearl / Platinum are my favourite games in the series for a multitude of reasons, and very special to me personally. So, why am I picking Platinum here? Well, to explain: Platinum was the third game, arriving in 2009 and bringing several changes to the formula. One of which is a newly wintery tone, with a snowfall and brisk chill covering the region, as shown with the addition of a scarf to each player outfit! This iteration of Pokémon has such a comforting feel, with soothingly melodic music (just listen to Route 209!), a beautiful 2D sprite-based art style, and endearing characters; add that snowy aesthetic and numerous other additions, such as animated Pokémon sprites, new story content, and map changes, and you get a warm blanket of a game that you can sink into. I associate Platinum with a sense of relaxation that matches this time of year so well, and I hope you can enjoy it too!”

Luke from Hundstrasse

Assassin's Creed IV, Black Flag, video game, sea, water, ship, island, pirates“There’s something about that lost week between Christmas and New Year, when I’m full of mince pies and Terry’s Chocolate Orange that makes me crave an open-world game. I can’t say that there is one specifically that I associate with the festive period, but over the years I’ve tackled many open-world adventures during the holiday season: Black Flag, Sunset Overdrive, and Dying Light all spring to mind from recent years, but there have been many more. I think it’s just that once-a-year combo of not having to get up early in the morning and not having anything else that really needs doing to beckon in hours of ‘just-one-more-sidequest’ and ‘Ooohhhh… I only need X $/£/points to unlock that fancy costume’.”

Kim from Later Levels

The Elder Scrolls Online, video game, tankard, inn, drink, woman, barman“I usually find myself returning to The Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) at Christmas. The main reason is because I first discovered it at this time of year so it seems fitting, but it’s also because it’s so simple to get into. You can do a couple of quests before putting down the controller, step away to open presents and have dinner with the family, then dive straight back into it without having to try too hard to remember where you left off. It’s also easy to unwrap your next Quality Street while working your way through a conversation tree.”

What will you be playing this Christmas? And what will you be keeping an eye out for in the Steam winter sale? Let us know in the comments below, if you can put down your controller and mince pie to spare a moment.

We’re taking part in GameBlast21 to support SpecialEffect, the gamers’ charity.
Making a donation will bring you great loot, increase your XP by +100 and make you immune to fire.*
(*Not guaranteed.)

Sharing the gift of gaming

What better gift to give to someone special than gaming? Whether it’s introducing a loved-one who’s never played before to the world of video games or helping a gamer-friend through a genre that’s new to them, we enjoy sharing our love for our hobby.

Last month, DanamesX from Tales from the Backlog launched the EXP Share: a monthly community event designed to encourage us all to share our experiences around a particular subject connected to video games. The topic for December is: ‘A story where you shared the gift of gaming with someone, or someone shared it with you.’ It’s a lovely subject for this time of year and a nostalgic one perfect for Christmas, so here are some of my favourite gaming memories.

1990: an Amiga 500 and The Secret of Monkey Island

genericI’m sure everybody already knows the story of how I originally got into gaming as a child. My dad’s Commodore 64 and the Usborne coding books made me curious about games with narratives more in depth than ‘save the princess’; and then an introduction to The Secret of Monkey Island after receiving an Amiga 500 kicked off a long-lasting love of the adventure genre and a crush on wannabe pirates. In fact, you can read all about those events it in my previous EXP Share post.

2013: the joy of video games

I first met the SpecialEffect team in 2013 after coming across their stand at the EGX event and have been volunteering for the charity since. They believe it’s everyone’s turn to play and experience the joy of video games. They put fun and inclusion back into the lives of people with physical disabilities by helping them to get involved, and use a range of technology such as modified controllers and eye-control software to find a way for individuals to play to the very best of their abilities.

2014: Cards Against Humanity

When Tim from Timlah’s Texts & Unity3D Tech and I realised we were both due to be in Birmingham at the same time, we immediately arranged to meet up for a drink in a pub at the NEC. It was still a bit of a surprise when he walked in dressed as Edward Elric and handed me a card saying something rude though – I had no idea what Cards Against Humanity was back then. We’ve been friends ever since, and my other-half and I have missed not being able to see him and his partner Jake this year.

2015: a PlayStation 4

Rezzed, video games, gaming, expo, EthanMy stepson’s reaction when he dived into his Christmas stocking and pulled out a box containing LittleBigPlanet 3 was a confused one: “I’ve always wanted to play this game, but it says it’s for PlayStation and we don’t have one.” It was at this point that I surprised Ethan and Pete with another box containing a PlayStation 4. We spent most of the holidays that year playing video games and letting the kid stream them on Twitch, so friends and family could stop by and say hello in chat.

2015: The Elder Scrolls Online (ESO)

The Elder Scrolls Online, video game, tankard, inn, drink, woman, barmanFriend-of-the-blog Phil kindly lent us a batch of titles including ESO so we were geared up and ready to play with our new PlayStation 4 – but then Pete came down with flu and passed out on the sofa for several days. That meant I was left to entertain myself in between fetching him tea and paracetamol, and it’s here that my on-off addiction. It’s a game I find myself returning to every few months and returning to Vvardenfell for some fishing has helped pass a few hours during the COVID-19 lockdown.

2016: Journey

Journey, video game, mountain, stranger, dessert, sky, star, sand, cloudsWe didn’t expect Ethan to be fascinated with Journey as soon as we handed the controller over to him. After climbing the snowy mountain and reaching the end, he said: “So I’m the star… and the next person playing right now will see me in the sky at the start of their game. That’s cool.” Getting the chance to show him that video games don’t always have to be about guns and explosions, and hearing him say that line inspired a post and went on to shape the content I wanted to write for Later Levels.

2018: the PlayStation VR

Ethan, Pete, Christmas, PlayStation VRAfter he fell in love with virtual reality (VR) at his first Rezzed expo in 2017, our families decided to club together to gift Ethan a PlayStation VR for Christmas. The look on his face as he unwrapped it was priceless and, unlike with the PlayStation 4 above, I had my camera ready this time. The headset now comes with us to family events so everyone can get involved and no doubt it will make an appearance again this Christmas – and my non-gaming sister-in-law can put us to shame with how great she is at VR Luge.

2020: game-swaps

When Luke from Hundstrasse and I had to cancel our plans to meet up at the London Gaming Market in March thanks to COVID-19, we decided to send each other the most bizarre PlayStation 2 games we could find. This is how I was introduced to Whiplash and the game-swap series started. Thanks to some lovely blogger-friends, I’ve played games and genres I’ve never experienced before: Metal Gear Solid 2, Final Fantasy XIII, Banjo Kazooie and most recently, VA11 Hall-A.

Thank you to DanamesX from Tales from the Backlog for another excellent topic this month. If you’re interested in joining in with December’s EXP Share, you have until the end of the month and can find all the details in this post.

We’re taking part in GameBlast21 to support SpecialEffect, the gamers’ charity.
Making a donation will bring you great loot, increase your XP by +100 and make you immune to fire.*
(*Not guaranteed.)

Looking back: 30 Games Tag

The end of 2020 is fast approaching, and it’s that time of year when gamers start looking back over the titles they’ve played. Which release was their favourite, which has left a lasting impression and which do they want to completely forget?

I found that the 30 Games Tag currently doing the rounds here in the blogging community was a great way to get myself thinking about these questions, and it was this post by Nathan from Gaming Omnivore which finally convinced me to give it a try. From the last titles to play to those from my childhood, here are my picks for each category along with some of my gaming memories.

The last single-player game you played: Interrogation Files: Port Landsend This was the last single-player game I’d completed at the time of writing, but detective titles don’t remain single-player experiences here. We’ve had a lot of fun streaming them on Twitch this year and inviting our friends in chat to participate by sharing their theories. Shout-out to the_Ghost_Owl!
The last multiplayer game you played: World of Warcraft (WoW) I recently started playing World of Warcraft (WoW) after getting roped into giving it a try by my other-half and Ellen from Ace Asunder. I totally suck at using a keyboard-and-mouse and wish there were an easy way to play using a controller, but I haven’t given up just yet.
A game you’ve played multiple times: The Secret of Monkey Island I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve played the original Monkey Island game over the years, either as part of an event or for my own enjoyment. Most recently it was for the title’s 30th anniversary back in October when I completed a stream and created a tag post for other fans.
A game in your favourite genre: Paradigm Paradigm, video game, caravan, shop, computers for sale, dogFrostilye from Frostilyte Writes may have been given Maize to play as part of our game-swap last month, but I also gifted him a copy of Paradigm because I thought he would appreciate its humour. It’s one of the funniest (and offensive) point-and-clicks I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing.
A game in your backlog: The Long Dark I backed the Kickstarter campaign for The Long Dark in September 2013 and, even though it was fully released in August 2017, I still haven’t gotten around to playing it. We’re planning to start it soon for our Sunday streams because it looks like it could be a great wintery game for this time of year.
The game you’ve put the most hours into: The Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) According to Steam, I’ve put over 240 hours into ESO so far. I’m almost suprised it isn’t more. I’ve had an on-off addiction with this release since being introduced to it by a friend in December 2015 and chilling out with my fishing-rod in Vvardenfell helped get me through the lockdown.
A game you never finished: cyperpunkdreams The most recent I didn’t finish was cyperpunkdreams. After being intrigued by its dystopian storyline, I signed up for the beta and received a key a couple of weeks ago. It became apparent it wasn’t for me a few hours in though because I couldn’t gel with the card-based gameplay.
A game in third-person: Horizon Zero Dawn Horizon Zero Dawn, video game, woman, warrior, Aloy, mountains, sky, photo mode, cloudsI started playing this one again for our Wednesday streams and it’s nice hanging out with Aloy once more. I’m far too uncoordinated to be any good at the game but I really enjoy it – and I have enough medicinal herbs to pull me through any fight. Plus there’s the photo mode to mess around with!
A game in first-person: The Suicide of Rachel Foster I don’t often play first-person releases because I’m better when there’s a third-person view, but the most recent one was The Suicide of Rachel Foster. It has been criticised by some due to it covering some sensitive subjects, but I enjoyed the atmosphere of this walking-simulator.
A game you’ve replayed: To The Moon I have a weird gaming habit whereby I like to replay all the past releases in a series before starting the latest one. I’m really looking forward to the release of Imposter Factory and – as much as Pete is going to roll his eyes at this – I’ll be completing To The Moon and Finding Paradise again before diving in.
A game you play to relax: Coloring Pixels This has to be one of the most relaxing titles I’ve ever experienced. Simply pick an image, select a colour and then click on the pixels showing the correct number until the picture is complete. I’d highly recommend if you’re looking for something you can de-stress with.
A game that gets you excited: Shivers Shivers, video game, ghost, spirit, water, Ixupi, river, boatCan excited also mean ‘scared’? I’m hoping so because I’d like to choose Shivers here. Even though I’d played it as a teenager back in the 1990s and so knew exactly what to expect, it was amazing how experiencing it again this year brought back the racing heartbeat and clammy hands.
A game from your favourite developers: Unavowed I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Dave Gilbert from Wadjet Eye Games speak at several events during the past few years and share his thoughts the adventure genre. His last release in 2018 was so good: a clever mix of point-and-click and RPG, combined with great characters and a supernatural storyline.
Your favourite indie game: Too many I’ve moved away from big-budget games in recent years because I’ve found that indie releases give me more of what I enjoy. It’s therefore difficult to pick just one here – so why not look out for the 2020 version of the Beginner’s guide to indie coming later this month for a round-up.
Your favourite AAA game: Fable II Fable was the title that got me back into gaming when I was a teenager so it means a lot to me, but it’s Fable II which is my favourite entry in the series. I’m hoping that Fable IV will recapture some of its cheeky, tongue-in-cheek magic even though it’s now being created by a different developer.
Your favourite board game: Monopoly Monopoly, Fallout, board gameI’m not really a fan of board games but occasionally, Monopoly does get pulled out at Christmas. I remember us gifting my stepson a Fallout version of it when he was going through his obsession and we ended up having to play it for five hours – before letting him win, just so it could be over.
Your favourite multiplayer game: That’s You! Seeing as I’ve already mentioned WoW and ESO above, I’m going to pick something a little different for this one and choose That’s You! We played it on a whim during our GameBlast marathon stream in 2018 and it resulted in one of my favourite moments ever from the charity event.
Your favourite single-player game: The Painscreek Killings Most of the games I pick up are single-players as I tend to stick to the adventure genre, and I’ve already mentioned some of my favourites throughout the rest of this post. So let me pick one of my favourites from this year instead. The Painscreek Killings is an excellent detective title.
Your favourite game series: Dreamfall One of my other favourite point-and-click games is The Longest Journey. I love the feeling of the story, the way it is written and how the female protagonist is brought to life. I haven’t yet been able to complete Dreamfall Chapters because I don’t want the series to end.
Your favourite game from childhood: Bone Cruncher Bone Cruncher, video game, Commodore 64, monster, cauldron, soapMy brother and I found this game on a stall at a local market and bought it for our Commodore 64 with our pocket-money. It was about a monster who collected bones to keep his soap business going, and it had a theme tune which reminded me of New Order’s Blue Monday.
An overrated game: Undertale The 12 hours spent with Undertale were pleasant enough but I wasn’t able to see why everyone goes crazy for it – and I couldn’t face having to complete the entire the process to get the alternative outcomes. There’s just something about this game which didn’t click for me.
An underrated game: Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller Cognition’s female protagonist is a badass. There’s so much potential here for a sequel and it would be great to see where her potent powers take her next. Sadly though, the developer hasn’t released a title since 2014 and seem more interested in the publishing side of the business nowadays.
Your guilty-pleasure game: The Typing of the Dead: Overkill I really shouldn’t like this game as much as I do – but I love it because it’s just so damn camp. The B-movie grindhouse style and vintage soundtrack encourage players not to take the title too seriously and I can’t stop myself from laughing at the parade of scantily-clad mutants and F-bombs.
A game based on a movie: The LEGO Movie Videogame The LEGO Movie Videogame, LEGO, video game, EmmettMy stepson played this title constantly when I was first introduced to him and I ended up learning the words to the annoying theme tune off by heart. He used to wake me up early on Saturday mornings so he could ‘teach’ me about it, and something he said inspired a post for an earlier blog.
A game with an awesome soundtrack: General Horse and the Package of Doom If you’re really lucky when playing General Horse, you’ll meet the pirates who showcase their lyrical-genius by singing their space shanty: “It is normal to die from drinking rum; he already shagged your mom; General Horse, not another bum; General Horse, pirate-loving scum.” It’s good, silly fun.
A game with awesome artwork: Eastshade Sunlight casts patterns on paths that weave through the forest while red butterflies play in the breeze; waves break on sandy shores as seagulls fly overhead; and lights twinkle overhead in dark underground caverns so it looks like a star-filled sky. Eastshade looks like a piece of art.
A game with awesome voice-acting: Gone Home Full marks go to Sarah Grayson for her portrayal of Sam. The teenager comes across as smart and snarky yet insecure and relatable, and you can’t help but feel for her. By the time you’ve spent the three hours needed to complete the title both she and her story will have left a lasting mark on you.
A game best played with a controller: Every game that isn’t a point-and-click As mentioned above, I completely suck when it comes to using a keyboard-and-mouse so I try to play every game with a controller where possible. There is an exception to this (see below) but generally speaking, I’ve always felt more comfortable with a gamepad for RPG and action releases.
A game best played with a keyboard-and-mouse: Every game that’s a point-and-click You just can’t play a point-and-click with a controller. Well, you can certainly try, but I find that it really spoils the experience and puts people off the genre. Manoeuvring your character feels much more natural using a mouse and it’s easier to handle the items you’ll need to solve puzzles.
An upcoming game you’re excited for: Beyond the Veil I played the demo during this year’s LudoNarraCon event and immediately added it to my wishlist. Although I’d seen only a snippet of the title, it left me wanting to continue the story and find out what was going down in the shadows of New Orleans – hopefully I’ll be able to get my hands on it soon.

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